The wolfpack is back in Todd Phillips’ sequel to his 2009 smash-hit “The Hangover.” Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms all reprise their iconic roles as Phil, Alan, and Stu. This time in The Hangover Part 2, however, the team assembles in Thailand for Stu’s wedding. But when he, already on poor terms with the bride, Lauren’s (Jamie Chung) father (Nirut Sirichanya), loses his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Teddy (Mason Lee), a 16-year-old Pre-Med student and the family’s “prized possession,” they find themselves in the midst of Bangkok’s seedy underbelly searching for him. Plans for a relaxing bachelor brunch (at iHop) and a pre-wedding beer are swapped for facial tattoos, shaved heads, drug-dealing monkeys, and Russian gangsters when the men awake in a cheap Taiwanese motel. Did I mention that, Ken Jeong (who attributes his success to the original’s critical-acclaim) returns as Mr. Chow? With that, this second installment had all the makings of a “sick night [at the movies], bitches.”
Cue the soundtrack’s slow, bluesy riffs because the city has been taken by storm. In their apparent drunkenness, the pack discovers their involvement with riots, crime dealings, kidnappings, and . . . transgendered prostitutes? Oh, I get it, Bang Kok. And it’s still not funny.
So the original must have been the celebratory drinking because its sequel is next morning’s headache. The Hangover Part 2 can be chalked up to the ‘ol case of same premise, different writers. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are replaced by Craig Mazin (“Superhero Movie,” “Scary Movie 3,” “Scary Movie 4”) and Scott Armstrong (“Old School,” “Semi-Pro,” “Starsky & Hutch”), who took many of the first film’s trademark scenes and adapted them for the new environments. This, before Phillips jumped in to re-shoot this shameless cash-in. Crueler, darker, and raunchier, this unnecessary reunion benefits from excellent leads.
All the main characters retain their idiosyncrasies whilst being expanded upon. However, most of the emphasis is placed on Allan. For the first time, we’re invited into his parents’ mansion, where the man hides in his room (he describes himself as a “stay-at-home son”): Printed photographs from their previous rendezvous splattered on the walls and a mini-fridge stocked with immunizations rests below his feet. Coincidentally, it’s here (and not in Thailand) that one of the film’s funniest scenes takes place. But Stu, the resident dentist and sensible adult, and the emasculated Phil, who just oozes cool, aren’t entirely forgotten.
Their respective actors maintain the same likability. Regardless of their chauvinistic tendencies (alcohol can do that to a person), Stu, Phil, and Alan all have an inkling of heart. In fact, it’s almost painful to watch the gang blame the latter’s childlike clumsiness for their conundrum. That’s because Galifianakis makes his character’s need for friendship, a believable defining detail. Then again, one can’t help but empathize with the formers for having to pick up the slack.
Same can’t be said about fan-favorite, Jeong, who nonsensically hops around like the Asian energizer bunny. But thank your lucky stars because Chow spends a majority of the film locked inside a freezer.
Ultimately, The Hangover Part 2 had oodles of potential. With “Bridesmaids” setting the scene for this summer’s adult-themed comedies, Phillips’ latest could have proved to be a one-two punch for those seeking something spicier than the PG-13 dribble shoveled into theaters on a biweekly basis. This never happens. For diehards, at least there’s hope for the supposed third (and final) chapter in the series. Let’s just hope that it too doesn’t operate with the grace of a late-night bar fight.